(Mannheim, December 2019) Christmas trees, nativity plays, “Silent Night, Holy Night” – in just a few days, most Germans will once again be gathering with their family or friends to celebrate what is for many the most important holiday of the year: Christmas. While Christians in Germany enjoy a few days off to relish the lebkuchen, Christmas stars and meaningful music, in many other parts of the world life goes on as usual. After all, the different cultures around the globe observe all kinds of important, festive occasions and holidays which are totally unrelated to Christmas. flexword, the well-known language service provider from Mannheim, has compiled a list of the world’s most important holidays and discovered that anyone open to different cultures can find good reason to celebrate all year round.
With a little ingenuity, even the Christmas celebrations can be extended: in Belgium and the Netherlands, Sinterklaas and his helper, Zwarte Piet, bring children gifts in the night from 5 to 6 December, marking St. Nicholas’s Day. Meanwhile, 25 December in those parts is a quiet religious holiday, often celebrated with a trip to church. In Orthodox Christian communities, on the other hand, Christmas is celebrated on 6 and 7 January. Gifts are exchanged on their Christmas Eve, with Christmas Day dedicated to church services and lavish festive meals attended by the whole family. The Orthodox Christmas is celebrated not only in Russia, Greece, Jerusalem, Serbia and the Czech Republic, but also in Egypt and Ethiopia, among other places.
Happy New Year
Rather than seeing out the Old Year in a spirit of contemplation, people in some other cultures prefer to welcome in the New Year with a bang and a burst of colour. In China, the most important holiday is “Chunjie”, Chinese New Year. This is calculated according to the lunar calendar and takes place between 21 January and 21 February. Throughout the country there are huge firework displays, splendid, colourful parades and dances with giant dragon and lion figures. The whole event is rounded off by the famous Lantern Festival, which sees entire streets and public squares decorated with handmade lanterns. The Holi festival in India is just as colourful. Between February and March, people say farewell to winter and welcome spring by meeting up on big squares to throw colourful paint powder at one another. Depending on the number of celebrants, there can be a real explosion of colour. What makes Holi so special is that on this one day, all people are equal, whatever religion or caste they belong to; however old they are and whatever their gender.
The coming of spring and summer fêtes around the world
There are some interesting, important public holidays in the warmer months, too. Between March and April, thousands of people flock to Japan to see the annual Cherry Blossom Festival. “Hanami” is the Japanese way of celebrating the spring: they hold big picnics with their families and friends under the cherry trees with their soft pink blossoms. A unique sight. In 2020, the Islamic “Sugar Feast” will also be taking place in the spring. This is the culmination of the 40-day fasting period of Ramadan, observed by large numbers of Muslims. The holiday is set according to the lunar calendar and thus takes place at a different time each year. Celebrants not only make their family and friends happy with lavish banquets, gifts and lots of sweets, but are also extremely generous towards those in need. In many Baltic countries, meanwhile, the start of summer is a reason to celebrate. To mark the summer solstice, Swedes, Finns, Danes, Norwegians, Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians commemorate Midsummer’s Day with traditional customs and dishes, celebrating the longest day and shortest night of the year, traditionally the start of summer. While the Swedes dress up in traditional clothes and dance around a decorated maypole, the Danes, Finns and Estonians usually light big bonfires. In Latvia, it is customary for women to make caraway cheese and for men to brew beer – a good basis for the exuberant celebrations held throughout the Baltic States on Midsummer’s Day.
Candlelight and skulls
Every year in Central America, a very unusual public holiday draws worldwide attention: El Día de los Muertos – the Day of the Dead. In Mexico, people spend the time between 31 October and 2 November remembering those who have died. To do so, they dress in colourful costumes with floral decorations and skull masks, parade through the streets, celebrate, dance and bring the dead gifts. Despite the countless skulls and skeletons encountered everywhere – even in the form of cakes and sweets – the festival should not be confused with Halloween, which, although it does take place at the same time, is meant to be scary. For Mexicans, death is a natural part of life; they put up altars to welcome the spirits of the deceased into the realm of the living, then celebrate life with gusto. El Día de los Muertos is celebrated whatever people’s religion or ethnic origin, and is now even being copied in Germany. The Jewish festival Hanukkah, by contrast, is highly religious, and often seen as a counterpart to Christmas, even though the two festivals have very different backgrounds. While Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, in November and December Jews celebrate the re-dedication of an important temple in Jerusalem in 164 BC. The famous eight-armed Hanukkah menorah symbolises the eight days of celebration. Legend has it that after the temple was re-dedicated following a religious war, there was hardly any oil left to light the menorah. But miraculously, the candles burned not just one, but eight full days. Today, families come together at Hanukkah to eat, sing and celebrate together lavishly.
flexword wishes everyone a Merry Christmas and plenty of lovely holidays all over the world in 2020.